UK SMR consortium calls for government support

12 September 2017

The UK government must give the country's nuclear industry clarity on the potential development and deployment of small modular reactors (SMRs), Rolls-Royce and its partners in the UK SMR consortium said today. There is a "once in a lifetime" opportunity for Britain to design, manufacture and operate such reactors, they added.

SMR render - 460 (Rolls-Royce)
How a power plant based on Rolls-Royce's SMR could appear (Image: Rolls-Royce)

Rolls-Royce and its partners - including Amec Foster Wheeler, Arup, Laing O'Rourke, Nuclear AMRC and Nuvia - today released a report claiming a UK SMR program could create 40,000 skilled jobs, contribute £100 billion ($132 billion) to the economy and open up a potential £400 billion global export market.

"The development of an SMR in the UK would not only complement existing plans for large new build reactors in supporting the future energy mix, it would allow the UK nuclear industry to embark on a long-term sustainable program of international export, supporting jobs and growth for decades to come," according to the report, titled UK SMR: A National Endeavour.

The UK SMR program, it suggests, is "uniquely placed to avoid the complexities, delays and overspends often associated with infrastructure projects". It says SMRs offer a "convincing alternative" to financing and constructing large-scale reactors around the world and represent a "very substantial commercial opportunity".

In addition, the consortium claims British consumers could benefit from lower cost electricity if the government backed an SMR program for the UK. They say SMRs could deliver electricity at £60 ($80) per MWh, making them competitive against wind and solar and help "the continual reduction in the price of nuclear generated power".

The report notes that a study by the UK National Nuclear Laboratory suggests a market for 7 GWe of SMR power plants will exist in the UK by 2035, with further opportunity beyond this to 2050. The UK SMR consortium claims it is uniquely qualified and positioned to capitalise on this opportunity, especially as its SMR design is based on proven technologies.

Harry Holt, president for nuclear at Rolls-Royce, said: "The UK has never had a greater need for low-cost, low-carbon, safe, secure and reliable energy production. With demand for energy set to rise in the near future - in part due to the growing popularity of electric cars - we believe that a UK SMR program is a vital addition to our national infrastructure."

The UK government launched the first phase of an SMR competition in 2016 to identify the best value SMR design for the UK.

"The time is now right for the government to move forward with pace towards establishing the conditions required for a UK SMR to flourish, as the rest of the world continues to develop SMR technology and the UK is in danger of being left behind," the report says. "The conditions are now right and the time has therefore come for UK government and the private sector to start working together in earnest to capitalise on the SMR opportunity."

Richard Maudslay, a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, led a study of the consortium's business case for SMRs. He said, "The review team concluded that a UK SMR program managed by a Rolls-Royce-led consortium with appropriate full and ongoing government support would offer the UK the best opportunity to design, manufacture and construct the next generation of nuclear plants and would help to deliver a national nuclear strategy."

In a foreword to the report, Nuclear Industry Association chairman Lord Hutton said: "It is vitally important to make the decision to move forward on this opportunity now. That is why the UK government should make clear its intentions so that the UK can deliver a solution that will supply secure, reliable and affordable electricity for more than 60 years and capitalise on new overseas markets that are emerging for SMRs."

Last week, NuScale Power of the USA launched an action plan for the near-term deployment of SMRs in the UK. The plan sets out how the company will partner with UK industry to deliver a "multi-billion pound SMR venture". Through its five-point UK SMR Action Plan, Portland, Oregon-based NuScale said the UK and the USA can work together to develop "game-changing technology for the global energy system".

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News